So I’ve been thinking about kids and playtime activities. If you’ve been on Pinterest lately, you may have noticed the plethora of ideas on how to keep your kids busy over the summer.
(I really wanted to use that word – plethora! haha)
Pinterest has been a source of great inspiration for me, but it can be extremely overwhelming as well! I want to do SO many things I see, but I honestly don’t have the energy for all these things – and some of them seem to be too… adult-directed. Add to that the fact that if you’re really letting your (young) kids do all the creating you end up with a HUGE mess (and a result that looks nothing like the intended result, ha!) at the end. I’m not against making messes, don’t get me wrong! But sometimes our activities end up involving much more than I had anticipated.
My last “involved” activity was homemade slime (gak). That was cool, but pretty much not worth it in the end. By the time the kids were done with it there were little pieces of this stuff everywhere! I’m not sure if I made a mistake in the recipe or what, but I didn’t realize that could happen. It needs to be handled a certain way and requires patience – it’s not like playing with silly putty or play dough.
I took a couple of pictures of them playing with it but didn’t take pictures of the mess in the end. Really, I should be more honest and share that side of things, too. Considering this made me wonder how we would all feel about these “awesome activities” if we saw the before/after pictures. Right?
Because please, oh please, don’t tell me my kids are the only messy kids on the planet. I know it can’t be true!
Maybe a disclaimer would be helpful: “Folks, don’t try this at home with any children under age 4.”
So now when I see these photos of kids having fun, I wonder how long they really were entertained, and on a scale of 1 to 10 how messy was it really? And how involved did the parent have to be in the making/clean-up of it all? Would this make a difference to you? I mean, I put that gak in a baggie and the kids didn’t ask for it again. If I offered it they would probably say yes, but since they aren’t asking you can see it wasn’t that memorable for them.
Okay, now I’m getting to my point. Are you feeling pressured to put together exciting, Facebook-worthy activities for your kids this summer? Yesterday I was reading through For the Children’s Sake. I picked this book up again after starting it a few several months ago. Click here to see my thoughts on the book and first chapter. The following excerpt really hit home for me (the smaller text is taken from Charlotte Mason’s home education books):
This actually made me feel a lot better about not having more of an organized summer for the kids. I don’t know about “serious danger”, but I have definitely seen negative effects when I try to direct my children’s play too much, when I think they need to be entertained by me (or the television) too many minutes of every day. Suddenly they are coming to me with “I’m bored!” or “What can I do?” more often and seem generally less happy, or they have a serious case of the “I wants” (I want this, if only I had that). But when they are left to their own devices more often, they are happier and play independently so very nicely.
And their imaginations take off! While writing this post I’ve been sitting outside sipping green tea while the kids play. Emma has made a mud milkshake complete with rock berry and stick straw, crafted a pretty elaborate “butterfly” out of random objects and tape, dug in the dirt while singing quietly to herself, and played with a ladybug. Isaac has been playing with water almost the whole time, either splashing in his mini pool or creating a mud hole with the hose. They made a moat with mud and water together to keep the dinosaurs out of their castle. They haven’t asked me for anything while we’ve been out here, or complained of having nothing to do!
It’s AWESOME! Because I’ve had some much-needed thinking/quiet time.
Now it wasn’t always like this, I have had to gently redirect them to go play in the past, I have given Emma suggestions on what kinds of things she can do outside (and inside), and I have let them have free reign as to what they would like to do. I have shoo’ed her away gently until she found something to do herself. Soon they realize the possibilities are endless and they really don’t need mom doing everything for them.
The photos below are a pretty accurate visual of our summer so far. I honestly thought we would be doing more structured educational activities (that lasted about a week) but life happened and instead we’ve been working on habits (oh boy, are we working on habits), the kids are learning how to entertain themselves quietly inside when asked, and there has been a lot of free play outside. Oh, how wonderful are summer days! We wake up every morning and do our “morning stuff” (brush teeth, make bed, have breakfast, read the Bible together), then head outside. Isaac can hardly wait – he would live outside if I let him! He spends a lot of time splashing in water, swinging, and running just for the joy of it.
Emma prefers sitting in the shade with me, making fairy houses with painted rocks, digging for bugs, or working on a crafty project. She has an eye for detail and will be distracted by a butterfly while playing ball with daddy and Isaac. Off she goes to investigate! Oh, she was in the middle of playing a game? Well, this is MUCH more important than a silly ball game! ;) Nature is glorious to her.
Right now their play toys outside consist of a sandbox with no more sand left and which has been turned into a pool instead, a sprinkler, a swing set which can’t really handle much weight at all (don’t ever buy this one), a wagon, and various other small things like pans, spoons, cups, and cars. They have a tricycle and bike as well but there is really no safe place to ride them around here so they don’t get used too often at the moment. Honestly, nothing I have bought thinking the kids “needed it” (save the swingset) has been used as much as I thought it would. Everyday objects seem to be the favorites, from boxes to rocks, shovels, dirt, trees.
Figures, right? : )
Let the imaginative free play abound!